Europa arrived in Cape Town on Tuesday, where she was meant to stay overnight and then depart on a roundtrip cruise along the South African and Namibian coasts, instead she’ll be heading for Mauritius.
Europa departed Spain on November 12th and sailed down the West African coast, arriving in Cape Town on Tuesday. She is the first cruise ship to do so since March, 2020.
The arrival of Europa was meant to signal the beginning of a strong recovery for the South African cruise market after the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the emergence of Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa but has since been detected globally, has prompted a string of international travel curbs on Southern Africa.
Travel restrictions imposed by the European Union, UK, the United States and other countries due to Omicron, which has been designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation, have cut off South Africa from its largest cruise source markets.
These travel restrictions mean Europa’s passengers will not be able to take shore excursions and independent exploration in South Africa as planned.
Popular attractions in Cape Town include Table Mountain, apartheid-era prison Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, and the V&A Waterfront.
Instead, they will have to either stay onboard or head straight home (primarily to Germany, as Hapag-Lloyd is a German line).
“Some passengers (will disembark) to fly home, whilst others will stay on board for the return journey,” said Wrenelle Stander, CEO at Wesgro, the trade and investment agency for the Western Cape province.
“Passengers heading to the airport will have to do a PCR (COVID-19) test before leaving,” she added in a statement to Reuters.
All the ship’s crew will have to remain onboard and won’t be switched with new staff as planned, and the ship will remain in port a day longer than planned while it waits for all the PCR tests to be processed.
Approximately 157 passengers, who disembarked in small batches, will be processed by immigration services until Thursday according to their flight schedules.
On December 2nd, Europa will depart on a 16-night cruise from Cape Town to Mauritius, with her planned roundtrip South African cruise cancelled.
On January 5th, she’ll then cruise from the Maldives to Dubai, where she will sail roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf instead, before undertaking a number of cruises in the Indian Ocean from the Maldives and Mauritius.